“Who here feels happy?” asked Sir Anthony Seldon, in a Google talk last year. Seldon is the author of the book, Beyond Happiness and Britain’s best-known headmaster. Sir Anthony famously introduced happiness, or well-being, lessons at his school, Wellington College. In 2011, he co-founded Action for Happiness, a body to raise awareness of the discovery of happiness and reduction of depression, whose influence according to many is growing rapidly in Britain and across the world.
“Who here would like to be happier?” he asks. “Who thinks deep down that other people are responsible for your happiness? Who blames other people for the unhappiness that you feel? Who blames others, in part, for the unhappiness that you feel in your life? And lastly, who believes that we have it in our power to be unbelievably happy?”
“So the question then is, what is it that is stopping you from being happier,” asks Seldon.
Sir Anthony Seldon provides an excellent introduction into the concept of happiness and how you have the power to either make yourself happy or unhappy. Business has caught onto this concept as an opportunity to improve productivity and profits. But how do you change an individual employees’ mindset? Here are a few thoughts from some experts.
Shock: Happiness Impacts Productivity!
“It’s not so shocking, it turns out that employee happiness impacts productivity in the work setting,” says Corbett Barr, Co-founder and CEO of Portland, Oregon based FizzleCo. “Of course, I know this probably isn’t news to you, but when I’m happy I know it’s really easy to get work done and when I’m bummed out or if something really negative happens it’s hard to find the motivation to do anything worthwhile.”
“I remember back when I worked in a big company environment, if my boss was a jerk it was really hard to get work done,” Barr added. “Likewise, if the company felt like it was going nowhere or if my results just weren’t being acknowledged, it was really hard to put in that extra effort.”
“But here’s the thing, this also applies to our work as entrepreneurs,” he said. “If you work for yourself, you’re the boss, so stop being such a jerk. Have fun once in awhile and your productivity will jump.”
How Do You Find Happiness at Work?
“It turns out that autonomy is a really big factor, meaning that if you have influence over where, when, and what you’re working on, it’s much easier to be happy and therefore productive in your work,” says Barr. “Of course as an entrepreneur it’s probably easier to have influence over these things then when you’re in a big corporate environments, but you still have to think about it.”
“The next step is to lower your stress and anxiety in all facets of your life, not just your work life,” explained Barr. “This means eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants, and making sure that you’re letting yourself have fun on a regular basis when building your own business. It’s really easy to feel like you have to be committed to your business 110% of the time, but this can lead to stress and burnout which leads to anxiety and depression which reduces your productivity which then makes you feel more stressed and more burned out. You can see how this cycle can start to spiral.”
“Take a breath and commit to spending less time on work and more time on staying healthy and having fun,” recommends Barr. “Your work will improve dramatically because of it.
Happy Employees Increase the Bottom Line
“I saw this news piece (last year) about happiness in the workplace and about how some companies were embracing these new workshops, teaching employees how to be happy,” noted Stephen Goldberg is the founder and president of Optimus Performance, which offers companies training programs to help motivate and improve the productivity of their employees. “I thought that was really interesting.”
“One of the company’s was a pharmaceutical Sanofi here in Montreal another one was Kohl’s in the United States,” said Goldberg. “They were saying how the happiness workshops were paying off fantastically in terms of improved productivity and Sanofi said it actually created an increase of about 40 percent in productivity and the bottom line.”
“So yes, you can provide motivation to people in the form of teaching people how to be more happier and I think that’s a great thing to do,” commented Goldberg. “But I think it’s a responsibility of each person to find their own happiness, because really happiness is an experience, it’s a feeling inside that we have and yes certain things that we do can cause that feeling.”
“It’s really something independent of everything we do on the outside,” he said. Otherwise, we’re always dependent on doing things or having things that are going to cause certain happiness.”
Employee Happiness is Contagious
“Imagine if everybody came with the mindset of appreciation and giving and helping each other in an organization,” exclaimed Goldberg. “That would really sparked teamwork and would also create a better performance, because people would be supporting each other much better.”
“Of course, the employer has a responsibility when it comes to performance, not just creating a happy workplace, but also providing the tools and the support so that people can do their jobs,” says Goldberg. “Even if they’re motivated for their work, they need those tools, support and direction. They need clarity to know what’s expected of them.”
Turning Your Brain Happier While You’re At Work
“We know that in the traditional business world, employees and managers think about happiness as something that you do at home, something that you do on your own time, that work is for work and that doesn’t necessarily make you happy,” says Eric Karpinski, Co-Founder and Director of Strategic Development of Potentia Labs, a neuroscience-based behavior change platform for enterprise talent development. “I want to turn that concept on its head.”
“I think it’s been turning over the last 10 to 20 years, people know that’s not really the core, but it’s still at the base of a lot of our assumptions around work, that it’s supposed to be something we are constantly focusing on,” he said. Karpinski says that research shows that happiness actually leads to success. “If you can find a way to turn your brain happier while you’re at work, it will give you all kinds of benefits.”
“You can increase your happiness,” he adds. “A lot of happiness and positive emotions in general are about choice. We can choose to feel happier.” Karpinski believes that by changing your habits you can actually rewire your brain so that you are more likely to “grab onto your happiness and notice the good things.”
“Happiness is infectious,” he says. “As each of us take on habits and start doing things that are going to help us be a little happier each day, we spread that out to our teams at work, to our families, to our communities and to our friends, and that lets everybody else tap into the benefits of being happier.”